(EN) TRENDSPOTTING: The Rise of Traditional Chinese Medicine


(EN) TRENDSPOTTING: The Rise of Traditional Chinese Medicine


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It’s no secret that Chinese condiments have long infiltrated the pantry of self-respecting millennials and fervent home cooks alike. Whether it is Lao Gan Ma’s Spicy Chili Crisp or Lee Kum Kee’s umami-laden XO sauce, these longstanding brands have inspired cult followings championed by the likes of one John Cena. Even the misnomer, “Chinese food” has also stood aside to make way for regional Chinese cuisines. So what’s the next big win for the Middle Kingdom?

We’re thinking it’s the proliferation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredients. Yes, the very same smorgasbord of dried roots, herbs, nuts and seeds that make-up the pungent potions that have scarred many Chinese childhoods are now making their way onto your plate.

Nectar (Hong Kong)

The leading force of sustainable dining in Hong Kong, Peggy Chan has always extolled the shining benefits of TCM ingredients. At Nectar, a high-end concept that elevates progressive plant-driven experience, TCM ingredients are incorporated into dishes for their healing properties and to promote the preservation of Chinese culture. One stunning example is her widely-acclaimed take on Bak Kut Teh which features TCM ingredients such as dang gui (to promote blood circulation and modulate the immune system), chuan xiong (to promote the flow of blood and qi), yuk zhu (to nourishes the yin in the lungs and stomach), dried shiitake (to boost immunity), licorice roots (to soothe gastrointestinal problems), cinnamon bark (for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) and star anise (to improve digestion and aid nausea). The resulting broth is a nourishing tonic soup that has been boiled for six hours using the same methods as our Chinese ancestors.

Image credit: Nectar

Ensue (Shenzhen)

Just two hours away, the sparkling newly Ensue (Shenzhen) marks Christopher Kostow’s foray into China. The 5/8 course menu is the culmination of Northern California farm-to-table culture and techniques with Southern China and Cantonese tastes and ingredients.  Besides the sourcing of local ingredients such as abalone from Dalian, red seabream from the South China Sea and river eel from Guangdong, TCM ingredients have eased its way into the menu in subtle, palatable forms. Diners are served a welcome tea of buckwheat and aged mandarin peel , a well-established cough remedy often prescribed by Chinese sinsehs,  but used here for its elegant citrus flavour. The signature water turtle soup is steeped with ginseng, lotus seeds and fresh olives, ingredients traditionally found in TCM but used here for its aroma and flavour. Could this mark TCM’s debut into the world of western fine dining?

Image credit: Ensue

Table81 (NYC)

Founded by Zoey Gong, Table81 is a dining experience that offers plant-based medicinal dinners as a form of education and therapy. With her background in clinical nutrition, professional kitchens, Zoey is dedicated to bringing Traditional Chinese Medicine into the modern age with her Chinese Medicinal Cuisine. The cuisine is based on Chinese medicine herbs, seasonal foods, and special condiments under the theoretical guidance to treat symptoms within the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In her able hands, the iconic Gargouillou gets a new lease of life with a TCM lens. The edible garden dish consists of ‘dirt’ made using over 15 ingredients including hemp seeds, black olives, cordyceps, shiitake, black sesame and topped with a gluten-free pancake made from Chinese celery leaves and kimchi.

Image Credit:  @Table81nyc

Given the more adventurous uptake of TCM ingredients in modern cooking, who is to say that TCM ingredients won’t be finding their way into echelons of classic European cuisine? Whether its dang gui beurre blanc or ginseng-tinged veloute, the possibilities are endless.


Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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